With the recent release of The Dirt, the Netflix-produced Mötley Crüe biopic, the question on everyone’s mind is whether most of that crazy stuff in the movie actually happened. Like any film, The Dirt uses some creative license—but not much. Mötley Crüe was one of the biggest bands on the planet in the late 80s and early 90s, with a string of hit records that established them at the height of the glam metal scene. That success brought about a pretty wild lifestyle and the stories that have spread about them are legendary in rock n’ roll circles. But as they say, you live by the sword, you die by the sword, and not everything was happy-go-lucky for the band members. Here are 42 facts that separate the truth from the myth.
Mötley Crüe Facts
1. Heavy Hitters
The heavy sound and wild behavior of Mötley Crüe was pure marketing gold in the 1980s when glam metal was in its heyday. The band was one of the best to cash in on the trend and have since become one of the biggest selling artists of all time. All told, Mötley Crüe has sold over 100 million albums around the globe!
2. What’s in a Name?
When it came to naming the band, Mick Mars had the winning ticket. He proposed “Mötley Crüe” because it was the name of his favorite song that he played with his former band, White Horse. Nikki Sixx had actually proposed the band be named “Christmas,” and then he changed his mind to “X-Mas.” Going to Mars’ idea was probably for the best.
3. Crime Pays
After his grandparents discovered that the teenaged Nikki Six spent most of his days vandalizing property and shoplifting, he was skating on thin ice—and that ice gave way when he was expelled from his high school for selling drugs on school property. His grandparents had had enough and he was sent to live with his mother back in Seattle—the city where he bought his first bass, which he purchased after selling a guitar he’d stolen.
4. Alternate History
In the Netflix biopic, Vince Neil is depicted as the voice that led the band into the big time. The only problem? He wasn’t actually the original lead singer for the band. Instead, the band went into the recording studio for their first album led by a man named O’Dean Peterson. Nikki Six and Mick Mars quickly realized they didn’t like Peterson’s personality, with his hippie-ish attitudes, and ousted the singer from the band.
Apparently, his tenure wasn’t notable enough to warrant including in the movie.
5. Split Decisions
One of the original 1990s gossip column couples, Tommy Lee and Pamela Anderson’s relationship was a constant roller-coaster. The Mötley Crüe drummer infamously married the Playboy playmate and Baywatch star only four days after the two first met in February 1995. The couple had two children, but given the brief courting ritual, the marriage seemed destined for failure—they divorced by 1998.
6. Third Time’s the Charm?
Tommy Lee’s marriage to Pamela Anderson after only knowing her for four days probably sent off some alarm bells for those close to him. He had already experienced two failed marriages: one to Elaine Starchuk and the other to actress and model Heather Locklear. The first marriage lasted only a year, but Lee was married to Locklear for almost a decade.
7. Going Viral
When Tommy Lee’s sex tape with Pamela Anderson was leaked to the media in 1995, it was all that people could talk about. It was one of the first examples of leaked celebrity sex tapes and really ushered a whole new, um, genre of filmmaking. Lee always contended that the tape was stolen by a construction worker who used to work with the International Entertainment Group production company. Lee sued IEG in the late 90s and settled out of court.
8. Deadbeat Dad
Given that the whole ethos of Mötley Crüe was about indulging in hedonistic and amoral behavior, it probably doesn’t come as a surprise that some of the band members were not the best family men. Tommy Lee spent a few months in jail for domestic assault after he kicked Pamela Anderson in 1998. Anderson was even holding their young son Dylan at the time.
9. You and Whose Army?
In September 2007, Tommy Lee went to the MTV VMAs on a wave of resurgence as Mötley Crüe started making one of their (many) comebacks. But, old habits die hard with vengeance. While attending the ceremony, Lee got into a bit of a dispute with Kid Rock. The two duked it out right there in the middle of the show and were eventually kicked out of the program. Apparently, the whole thing was caused by Kid Rock, who eventually pled guilty to assault on Lee.
210. Won’t Somebody Please Think of the Horses?
After years of hard partying, Tommy Lee decided to put his fame to better use and took up the cause of animal rights. Since 2013, Lee has been a spokesperson for PETA. He has sent letters on behalf of the organization to SeaWorld, for their treatment of killer whales, and to Alberta Premier Alison Redford, asking for an end to the chuckwagon races at the Calgary Stampede!
11. Tragedy Strikes
In the summer of 2001, Tommy Lee’s life changed drastically when tragedy struck at his five-year-old son Brandon’s birthday party. Amidst the chaos of the party, one of the boy’s friends, Daniel Karven-Veres, fell into the pool and drowned. Daniel’s parents sued Lee for negligence since it was his house and his party, but Lee was eventually cleared of the suit in 2003.
12. Friends in Need
After a tumultuous 1999, which saw Tommy Lee quit the band following a few heated exchanges in the recording studio, ex-Ozzy Osbourne drummer Randy Castillo took over on the kit. Castillo only managed to record one album with the new Mötley Crüe line-up: 2000’s New Tattoo. The album was met with mixed reviews from both fans and critics alike.
13. Just Getting Started
Even though New Tattoo only garnered a lukewarm reception, Mötley Crüe felt like they were returning to form with Castillo replacing Lee. This feeling was ultimately short-lived. In 2002, just a week before Mötley Crüe was due to head out on a major world tour, Castillo took himself to the hospital with intense abdominal pain. As he entered the hospital waiting room, he collapsed on the ground.
Castillo suffered from an ulcer that had ruptured his stomach—but he caught it just in time and managed to get life-saving surgery. The tour had to be postponed to give him time to recover.
14. From Bad to Worse
As Randy Castillo began recovering from his life-saving stomach surgery in 2001, he discovered a lump in his jaw that turned out to be squamous cell carcinoma. Initial treatments proved successful and the cancer went into remission in late 2001, but the disease returned the year after. This time, the treatments just didn’t work. Castillo died at the age of 51 and Mötley Crüe was put on hold once again.
15. Come Enjoy the Show!
Mötley Crüe had established a name for themselves with their first two albums, 1981’s Too Fast for Love and 1983’s Shout at the Devil. Fans got to know a straight-shooting glam-metal band that had all the riffs for a good time. But nobody could have expected the massive hit that was their third album, 1985’s Theatre of Pain. The album hit the number six spot on the Billboard charts, and within a decade it had gone quadruple platinum.
Not too bad for a bunch of dudes with hair-dos.
16. Lending an Ear
Lots of people tended to crash at the houses and apartments of various Mötley Crüe band members—after all, it was basically non-stop partying for them—but not all guests were always welcome. One time, some no-name musician was really getting on Nikki Sixx’s nerves with his pretentious attitude. Naturally, Sixx felt inclined to have the guy, erm, hear him out.
Sixx allegedly pushed the so-called poser onto a coffee table…and literally nailed his ear to the furniture.
17. We’re Number Six! We’re Number Six!
For all their fame and public exploits, Mötley Crüe never quite made it to the pinnacle of record sales or radio play. The band never had a Number One hit on the Billboard Hot 100 charts. “Dr. Feelgood” came closest for the band, managing to peak at number 6.
18. The Hills are Alive with the Sounds of Metal
In the music video for the lead single of Theatre of Pain, “Smokin’ in the Boys Room,” Mötley Crüe played on the “rock n’ roll will free the youth from tyrannical teachers” trope by employing the actor Michael Berryman to play the authoritarian school principal. Horror fans might recognize the name—Berryman acted in a number of B-movie splatterfests, including Wes Craven’s brutal exploitation flick The Hills Have Eyes.
19. Won’t Someone Please Think of the Children!
The 1980s were a weird time. When the video for “Smokin’ in the Boys Room” was making the rounds on MTV, it drew the ire of certain political figures. Tipper Gore, Senator Al Gore’s wife, was at that time a part of the activist group Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC), whose goal was apparently to kill all fun.
Gore made “Smokin’ in the Boys Room” exhibit A in the group’s crusade against the partying lifestyles and depiction of sex and drugs in music videos. Talk about a buzz kill.
20. Changing Your Tune
For the Farewell Tour in 2014, the band members of Mötley Crüe weren’t always exactly on the same page when it came to production values. In an interview at the beginning of the tour, Mick Mars was asked about the use of pre-recorded backing vocals for Nikki Sixx. Mars was…vocal in his dislike of the practice, comparing it to being at a Britney Spears concert.
“I could put on a Mötley CD and play along with it all day. I don’t wanna do that,” Mars said to Eddie Trunk in the interview.
21. Changing Keys
After railing against Nikki Sixx’s use of pre-recorded vocals, Mick Mars suddenly had a change of heart when Rolling Stone magazine came calling. In that interview, Mars suggested that he thought the pre-recorded vocals allowed for the band to give the best possible musical performance. Hmmm, I wonder if some words were exchanged behind the scenes?
Although Vince Neil became the voice of Mötley Crüe during its heyday in the 80s and early 90s, he wasn’t always the lead singer. The only reason he even got a chance with the band was that he had been friends with drummer Tommy Lee in high school. Thanks to Lee, the rest of Mötley Crüe decided to check out Neil’s band Rock Candy. The rest is history!
While attending Royal Oak High School in Glendora, California, future Mötley Crüe leader Vince Neil displayed a penchant for many different talents. Along with his passion for music, Neil was a bit of an athlete! His hobbies included basketball, baseball, wrestling, and, in true Californian fashion, surfing.
24. A Second Shot
The 1990s weren’t exactly kind to Mötley Crüe. A string of commercial and critical flops in the first part of the decade led to infighting and the band imploded the middle of the decade. Things seemed all but over for the group until VH1 featured the band in an episode of Behind the Music in 1998. The episode was a huge hit amongst audiences and landed Mötley Crüe firmly back in the spotlight.
It remains the most-watched and highest-rated episode for the entire series. It even earned its own standalone DVD.
25. Out of Stock
With the success of the Behind the Music episode bringing the band back into prominence, Mötley Crüe decided to take the next logical step for their career. In 1998 they opened…a store? S’Crüe was located on Melrose Avenue in LA and along with band merchandise, it also stocked clothing from both Nikki Sixx and Vince Neil’s fashion lines.
It was…not successful. S’Crüe closed its doors forever after only one year of operation.
26. Calling an Audible
Vince Neil owned a football team! In 2015, the Mötley Crüe frontman purchased the Las Vegas Outlaws, who played in the Arena Football League. Neil apparently hadn’t learned from the failures of some of his past business ventures—within 14 weeks, the league had to take over the team, who were facing significant financial troubles.
27. That Feelgood Feeling
Neil was never one to let a money-making opportunity go to waste when it came to the Mötley Crüe brand. In 2008, Neil opened the very first “Dr. Feelgood’s Bar and Grill” in West Palm Beach, Florida. The bar and grill now has three locations, but its very existence was in limbo for quite a bit of time. Not all of the band members were willing to let Neil use their intellectual property for the restaurant, and it took two years before everyone signed off on the business name and concept.
28. Lights, Camera…Cut!
At the end of the 1980s, at the height of Mötley Crüe’s popularity, you’d think movie producers would be chomping at the bit to cast the icons of hard rock in their films. And you would be wrong! They saw very little screentime—though Neil did gain a brief cameo role in Police Academy 6: City Under Siege. He played one of the citizens who had to be protected by Lieutenant Moses Hightower during the climax of the movie…but unfortunately, his scene didn’t make the final cut.
29. Rocky Start
In the early days of Mötley Crüe, the band members attracted some…interesting characters to their hard-partying lifestyle. Tommy Lee was particularly well-known for girlfriends, who were a bit reckless when it came to personal property. One such girlfriend, known as “Bullwinkle” by the band, was particularly well-known for her destructive fits of rage.
She even once catapulted a fire extinguisher through an apartment window because Lee was trying to avoid her.
30. Garbage Man!
Mötley Crüe became infamous in the late 80s for their Sunset Strip apartment. It was a den for sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll. You know who was not that big on sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll? The Los Angeles County Department of Health Services. They had to cite the band for the fact that they refused to clear off the garbage from their back patio. Talk about neighborly behavior!
31. At Least There Will Be Twinkies
Garbage wasn’t the only problem facing the Mötley Crüe apartment on Sunset Boulevard; cockroaches were also a big issue for the place. After being asked to remove the critters, the band didn’t quite have the funds to get the proper pesticide. So they did the next best thing: they used a mix of lighter fluid and hairspray to create a makeshift blowtorch. It…worked?
32. I Think That’s a Health-Code Violation
The band’s roach problem apparently got so bad that they eventually took to running the oven in their apartment on high for 10 minutes before cooking—in order to kill any of the critters that might have gotten stuck inside.
33. Go Fast or…Go to the Bar!
When it came to writing and recording one of their breakthrough hits, Mötley Crüe knew their best source of inspiration: booze! The band recorded one of their first bona fide hits, “Too Fast for Love,” in the course of three bacchanalian days—they were intoxicated the entire time!
34. You’re Fired!
In the early days of the band, one of their first big breaks was the chance to open for KISS on their world tour. KISS had built themselves on the reputation of a hedonistic and wild lifestyle, but more than anything, Gene Simmons liked to make money. Mötley Crüe actually lived that hedonistic and wild lifestyle, and Simmons saw that it was bad for business, so he fired them half-way through the tour.
35. Kickstarter Campaign
“Kickstart My Heart” was inspired by Nikki Sixx’s near-death experience from a drug overdose—but that doesn’t mean the experience gave Sixx a reason to stop partying. The very first thing he did with friends when he recovered from his overdose was…more drugs. Thankfully, Sixx has been able to clean up in more recent years.
36. I’m a Seven, You’re an…
I don’t know what it is about machismo, booze, and rock n’ roll that makes dudes want to urinate in inappropriate places, but Mötley Crüe certainly makes a case for this being a universal truth. During their world tours for albums like Girls, Girls, Girls, the band admitted to often urinating on the floors of their hotel room. Because…sure, why not?
37. Art Imitates Life
Motley Crue’s “Knock ‘Em Dead, Kid” is a rip-roaring song about getting into a bar fight. Unsurprisingly, Nikki Sixx based the song on, you guessed it, getting into a bar fight. The brawl broke out at a biker club when Sixx tried to take on a number of bikers. It probably wasn’t the smartest move to begin with, but things went from bad to worse when he discovered that these “bikers” were actually undercover cops—and they ended up doing quite the number on him!
38. You Get Me, Bro
When Mötley Crüe got together to film the music video for “Home Sweet Home,” they were at the height of their debauchery—none more so than Nikki Sixx. He was stoned out of his mind during the entire shoot and started to hallucinate. At one point, the crew had no idea where he went and found him squatting underneath the stage.
Apparently, he was having a really deep conversation about life with someone who existed only in his mind. Heavy, man.
39. Fact or Fiction?
One of the craziest rumors floating around about Mötley Crüe involved a contest between the band and Ozzy Osbourne when the two toured together in the late 1980s. The rules of the contest were simple enough: who could do the grossest thing before the other person gave up. Apparently, this contest culminated in Nikki Sixx drinking his own urine.
Ozzy hasn’t denied that this happened, but says he quite simply can’t remember…which isn’t exactly surprising.
40. Rough Start
Nikki Sixx gained quite the reputation for his wild and hedonistic ways as Mötley Crüe’s bassist, but after his painful childhood, who can blame him for partying it up when he got the chance? Sixx’s early days were full of uncertainty. His father left the family when he was still a toddler and, after years of pressure, Nikki’s mother abandoned him as well.
He spent the rest of his childhood with his grandparents.
41. It Takes Dedication
The dedication for Theatre of Pain might have seemed somewhat surprising—it was made out to Razzle Dingley, the drummer for Hanoi Rocks, a popular glam metal band from Finland. The dedication came about because a year before the release of Theatre of Pain, Razzle had been killed in a car accident. The man driving the car during the accident was none-other than Vince Neil, lead singer of Mötley Crüe.
42. Bad Decisions
Vince Neil got into the accident that claimed the Hanoi Rocks’ drummer’s life because they were drunk and speeding. The pair were in the process of getting to a liquor store to restock on booze when the multi-vehicle accident occurred. Neil was ordered to spend 30 days in jail after being charged with DUI and vehicular manslaughter, but managed to get out after only 15 days.